October 17, 1981

October 15, 2011

The autumn of 1981 was the first time that the radio was the first thing I turned on in the morning and the last thing turned off at night.

Q102 would air the Top Ten At Ten weeknights at the titular hour, so a lot of nights I’d leave the radio on, listening well after they’d finished counting down the day’s most requested songs.

The station was the station for most of my junior high classmates and the previous evening’s countdown usually merited at least a few minutes discussion and debate the following day.

It was a good station for a kid just beginning to become interested in music, Top 40 with diverse offerings ranging from Air Supply and Hall & Oates to The Go-Go’s and Rick James as well as classic Who, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin.

Perusing the Hot 100 in Billboard magazine from thirty years ago, most of the songs are recognizable, some more familiar than others; some I did hear at the time and some only over the ensuing years.

Here are the nine songs making their first appearance on the chart during this week in 1981…

Arlan Day – I Surrender
from Surrender (1981)
(debuted #90, peaked #71, 7 weeks on chart)

Arlan Day has one more hit song than me and likely you, yet there’s probably more info floating in cyberspace on most of us than there is on Arlan.

I Surrender makes me wonder if Day was concocted in some lab from leftover scraps of Leo Sayer.

Pablo Cruise – Slip Away
from Reflector (1981)
(debuted #88, peaked #75, 5 weeks on chart)

I know little about Pablo Cruise other than Whatcha Gonna Do? and Love Will Find A Way. I think that they were from California and had moustaches.

(they had that bright, late ’70s California soft pop sound and I think moustaches were mandated for such acts at the time)

Slip Away is pleasant enough, not quite four minutes of unadorned, mid-tempo, yacht rock blues.

The Alan Parsons Project – Snake Eyes
from The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980)
(debuted #86, peaked #67, 5 weeks on chart)

I’ve long owned a lot of music by The Alan Parsons Project, but couldn’t remember Snake Eyes and it wasn’t familiar upon listening to it.

A follow-up to The Turn Of A Friendly Card‘s earlier hits Games People Play and Time, Snake Eyes is neither as catchy as the former nor as evocative as the latter.

Quarterflash – Harden My Heart
from Quarterflash (1981)
(debuted #80, peaked #3, 24 weeks on chart)

Thanks to Casey Kasem I know that Quarterflash got their name from…it’s an Australian saying…

I had to look it up. It derives from an Australian slang description of new immigrants as “one quarter flash and three parts foolish.”

Harden My Heart was appealing and seems to have retained a bit of a presence.

(and my teenaged buddies and I found Quarterflash lead singer/saxophonist Rindy Ross to be quite fetching)

Juice Newton – The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)
from Juice (1981)
(debuted #79, peaked #7, 24 weeks on chart)

Juice Newton caught my attention when I heard Angel Of The Morning and Queen Of Hearts – her earlier Top Ten hits from her self-titled album – on the radio, mostly because her name was Juice.

(sadly, her name is actually Judy)

Juice straddled the line between country and pop with those songs and the singer became a breakout sensation in 1981. The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known) is on the twangier side and, thus, was of no interest to me at the time, but I find the song more engaging now and Juice belts the melodramatic ballad to the back row.

Survivor – Poor Man’s Son
from Premonition (1981)
(debuted #78, peaked #33, 14 weeks on chart)

Survivor was just another aspiring arena rock band in the autumn of ’81, but, by the following summer, the Chicago band would unleash the mighty Eye Of The Tiger into an unsuspecting world. I seem to recall reading that it was hearing Poor Man’s Son that prompted Sylvester Stallone to tap Survivor to compose the theme for Rocky III.

The punchy Poor Man’s Son is servicable but sounds more like a band that would be relegated to opening act status for the Journeys, Foreigners, and REO Speedwagons of the world, hardly hinting at the musical immortality awaiting Survivor.

Kool & The Gang- Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)
from Something Special (1981)
(debuted #67, peaked #17, 17 weeks on chart)

Kool & The Gang was a pop radio staple in the early ’80s and throughout much of the decade, but the venerable R&B/funk act had punched their ticket for enduring fame and fortune a year earlier with the mammoth hit Celebration. The effervescent song became the soundtrack to all things celebatory in nature, especially sporting events.

I never really cared much for the doo-wop tinged Take My Heart, perferring the grittier funk of its follow-up Get Down On It, but I recall my buddy Beej loving the song at the time.

Rod Stewart – Young Turks
from Tonight I’m Yours (1981)
(debuted #61, peaked #5, 19 weeks on chart)

In 1981, my classmates and I knew little of Rod Stewart’s already extensive history aside from his disco vamp Do You Think I’m Sexy, that song’s follow-up Ain’t Love A Bitch (because, hey, he just said “bitch”), and rumors of stomach pumping.

I totally dug Young Turks, the tale of Billy and Patti and their ten-pound baby boy, which found Rod ditching the disco trappings for a more wiry, New Wave musical vibe.

Diana Ross – Why Do Fools Fall In Love
from Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1981)
(debuted #56, peaked #7, 20 weeks on chart)

Diana Ross had retained her superstar status as a solo act in the ’70s not only with a string of hit songs but in a number of movies as well.

However, like Rod Stewart, my classmates and I knew Ross for her more recent work – stuff like the movie The Wiz and her early ’80s hits like Upside Down, I’m Coming Out, and Endless Love – than her iconic time as a Supreme in the ’60s.

Whatever I knew by The Supremes at the time would have been dismissed as ancient history and Ross’ update of a Frankie Lymon hit from the ’50s usually prompted me to search for something else on the dial.

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August 14, 1982

August 14, 2011

With nothing of use in my head, it’s a good time to pull up a Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart from the early ’80s – a period of my initial infatuation with music and radio – and check out the debut songs.

So, here are the seven songs which were making their first appearance on the chart during this week in 1982…

John Schneider – In The Driver’s Seat
from Quiet Man
(debuted #90, peaked #72, 6 weeks on chart)

John Schneider was one half of the Duke boys in the ’80s series The Dukes Of Hazard. The other brother was played by Tom Wopat and – had he had the song debuting – I could recount the tale of an insane neighbor I once had who dated him, leading her to declare to me, “Tom Wopat loves me!”

(my college education had, unfortunately, not prepared me for such an inconceivable situation so I stood there, slack-jawed and inert, unsure of an appropriate response and not wanting to laugh)

Strange courtships aside, I had never heard In The Driver’s Seat, not in ’82 or during the ensuing three decades, but – rightly or wrongly – it makes me think of Jim Croce’s Speedball Tucker and Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy).

Tané Cain – Holdin’ On
from Tané Cain
(debuted #89, peaked #37, 11 weeks on chart)

Tané Cain was the daughter of actor Doug McClure who starred in, among other movies, The Land That Time Forgot which was eagerly awaited by me as a seven-year old in 1975. In 1982, Cain was married to Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain and issued a self-titled album.

Holdin’ On managed to eke into the Top 40, but it’s a rather generic pop/rock track and the only time that I ever heard the song on the radio was when it aired on American Top 40.

More memorable was the sleeve of the 45, catching the attention of me and my buddy Beej when we found it in the record bin of our hometown discount store. It was like she’d been booted out of Charlie’s Angels for dressing like Pocahontas.

Spys – Don’t Run My Life
from Spys
(debuted #88, peaked #82, 5 weeks on chart)

Formed by keyboardist Al Greenwood and bassist Ed Gagliardi, who had been founding members of Foreigner, Spys released two albums in the early ’80s to scant success.

It’s a bit surprising that Don’t Run My Life didn’t prove to be more popular given Spys’ pedigree and a sound that wouldn’t have been out of place on Journey’s Escape.

The Gap Band – You Dropped A Bomb On Me
from Gap Band IV
(debuted #85, peaked #31, 13 weeks on chart)

Q102, the station I would have favored in August, 1982, was Top 40 with a rock slant, mixing in album tracks and stuff that would be staples of classic rock stations in the future. There wasn’t a lot of R&B.

I knew the Gap Band from hearing Early In The Morning earlier that summer on American Top 40 for a month or so. However, it was the groovy, electro-funky You Dropped A Bomb On Me , though, that was my real exposure to the trio of siblings as Q102 played the song – and often – as the summer was ending.

Quarterflash – Night Shift
from Night Shift soundtrack
(debuted #83, peaked #60, 8 weeks on chart)

My friend Will and I were quite smitten with Rindy Ross, lead singer and saxophonist for Quarterflash. The band had notched a pair of major hits in late ’81/early ’82 with Harden My Heart and Find Another Fool from the band’s self-titled debut.

Night Shift was the title song that I didn’t hear on the radio from a movie that I didn’t see (but apparently was on cable – which we didn’t have – all the time the following year). It starred Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler – Batman and Fonzie – running a brothel from a morgue.

(or something like that)

The song is a pleasant, little number with a laid-back, shuffling groove but doesn’t really pop like those earlier hits.

Huey Lewis & The News – Workin’ For A Livin’
from Picture This
(debuted #73, peaked #41, 9 weeks on chart)

There was a period of about five years during which it was damn near impossible to surf the dial and not come across a song by Huey Lewis & The News. Some folks had an almost deranged reaction to this saturation of the airwaves.

I quite liked some of their songs and the others I ignored.

The manic Workin’ For A Livin’ is one of the former.

Santana – Hold On
from Shangó

(debuted #72, peaked #15, 14 weeks on chart)

I don’t think I knew Santana in 1982 beyond Winning from the year before.

(it was a staple on the bowling alley jukebox)

Though I doubt it’s considered a Santana classic now, Q102 played the hell out of Hold On in ’82. I dug the song’s fluid feel and it does have a chorus that invites a singalong (or murmur under your breath in traffic).


One Penny

April 13, 2011

I’ve lamented the lack of music easily available to me pre-drivers license.

There was a small section devoted to albums, cassettes, and 45s in the one diminutive department store of my hometown. There couldn’t have been more than three hundred titles and the lot of it would have fit easily into our den.

(which was of the typical, Midwestern, wood-paneled variety, circa 1979)

This lack of a proper record store was hardly an issue for the first year or so as this small selection of music available to me was strictly the most popular stuff – AC/DC, Journey, Styx…

It would be another year before I would be searching for titles that might require a trip to the nearest record stores, fifty miles (and several hours spent with the parents) away.

As I made my way through the final months of junior high in the spring of ’82, the sum of my music collection was, perhaps, half a dozen cassettes including Christopher Cross’ debut, Journey’s Escape, and J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame.

I was hardly cutting edge. I was a thirteen-year old kid in a town that sometimes didn’t make the map and those handful or so of titles had been purchased with most of the little wealth I had at that age.

So, it was a momentous morning that spring when, sprawled on the den floor leafing through the Sunday paper for the comics, I stopped, mesmerized by the text on the insert.

The bold headline promised me a dozen titles for a penny and my eyes scanned the titles from which I could choose.

I had certainly seen this offer before but my interest in music had reached a critical mass and I had to own more. This was a no-brainer and as I penciled in my selections I chose with the careful consideration of someone manning a key in a missile silo.

And so, I entered into a contractual obligation as a member of the Columbia Record & Tape Club.

Four to six weeks later I arrived home from school to hours and hours of music, the smell of newly-opened cassettes filling the air.

Each month, a new catalog arrived and I pored through the titles as I fulfilled the however many tapes it took for me to fulfill the deal.

I suddenly had a music collection.

I soured on the club by the following spring for the lack of liner notes. The stuff Columbia House had licensed would have a simple paper sleeve with the album cover art.

I needed more.

And, as my friends and I now had drivers licenses, I no longer needed Columbia House.

I don’t recall all of the cassettes I snagged with that intial haul of a dozen. There was Queen’s Greatest Hits , The Best Of Blondie. and Air Supply’s debut.

Here are four songs from four tapes which I do know arrived on that glorious April afternoon in 1982…

Joan Jett And The Blackhearts – Victim Of Circumstance
from I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll

The title track from Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll was a juggernaut. The song caught my ear the first night I heard it and, within a day or two, everyone at school was abuzz about it. The song dominated Q102’s Top Ten At Ten for what seemed like forever.

By April, I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll had been joined in the nightly countdown, on various evenings, by several other songs from the album including Crimson And Clover, You’re Too Possessive, and the driving Victim Of Circumstance.

(the latter two being about as close to punk rock as most of us had ever gotten)

Loverboy – Take Me To The Top
from Get Lucky

I’d wager that radio in our part of the Midwest had to have embraced Loverboy as much as anywhere south of their Canadian homeland. Not only did the hits from their first couple albums – Turn Me Loose, The Kid Is Hot Tonight, Working For The Weekend – get played incessitantly, other songs got plenty of attention, too.

Take Me To The Top was an album track that all of the rock stations were playing. The moody, mid-tempo song had the expected Loverboy mix of synthesizer and guitars that was heard blaring from every Camaro in town.

Aldo Nova – Fantasy
from Aldo Nova

The deciding factor when I selected that chosen dozen was, usually, song recognition. I wanted songs that I had heard, preferably on the radio but, also, on the jukebox at the bowling alley.

(hence the Queen and Blondie compilations)

One title on which I “gambled” was the debut by Canadian Aldo Nova. The cooler-than-cool Fantasy was the only song I had heard, but I dug it so much I had to get the full cassette.

Quarterflash – Find Another Fool
from Quarterflash

I’ve duly noted how fetching my friends and I found Quarterflash lead singer/saxophonist Rindy Ross to be. And, for a brief year or so, the usually mellow rockin’ group notched a few hits.

I suppose the only song most people remember Quarterflash for is Harden My Heart, but the follow-up Find Another Fool was quite popular at the time, too. It’s got a far more frantic feel with a similar lyric of a woman scorned and is a bit like the kid sister to some of Pat Benatar’s more New Wave-tinged tracks from the early ’80s.